Pandemic reviews


Well, a lot has changed since I last wrote reviews. The world is suffering from a deadly pandemic, and the comics industry is in the middle of an existential crisis. Of course comics are far less important than people’s lives, and it seems silly to be worried about mere entertainment at such a time. But my biggest worries stemming from COVID-19 have been about comics and academia. The bigger consequences of the pandemic for society and public health are too big to think about, and I’m trying to avoid thinking about them. But periodical comic books have been central to my identity for my entire life.  The prospect that there might be no new comic books again, ever, is terrifying. I feel far less worried about coronavirus now, though, than I did in March, and I think that one way or another, the comics industry will survive. Sooner or later there will be monthly comics and comic conventions again. Meanwhile, I’ve been ordering a lot of old comics, and I’ve been keeping a list of major developments in the industry, so that when all this is over, I can write about it.

Early in March, I read some old comics that I’d had for years:

SKREEMER #1 (DC, 1989) – “Souls to the Devil,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Brett Ewins & Steve Dillon. This comic is narrated out of chronological order and is very difficult to understand, but it’s interesting. It’s sort of a hybrid of crime fiction and postapocalyptic SF, focusing on a mobster named Vito Skreemer. Like many other Peter Milligan comics, it seems to demand multiple readings in order to make sense of it. At the end of this issue there’s a quotation from the song “Finnegan’s Wake,” which inspired the novel.

SGT. ROCK #399 (DC, 1985) – “Sgt. Rock is Dead!”, [W] Robert Kanigher, [A] Adrian Gonzales. Sgt. Rock fakes his own death in order to exterminate an SS patrol. This story is fairly gripping and brutal, but somewhat forgettable; in writing this review, I had to remind myself what it’s about. The backup story by Darren Auck, about science-fictional mercenaries, is even less memorable.

ALIEN WORLDS #7 (Pacific, 1984) – “The Small World of Lewis Stillman,” [W/A] Richard Corben from a story by William F. Nolan, etc. William F. Nolan is best known for Logan’s Run. This issue begins with Corben’s adaptation of a postapocalyptic story by Nolan in which a young couple are murdered by creepy children. The plot here is nothing special, but Corben’s artwork is gorgeous. I’ll have more to say about him in some much later reviews. Bruce Jones and Gray Morrow’s “It All Fits” is an EC-esque SF story, featuring an illicit love affair on an alien planet, plus some carnivorous fur coats. Perhaps the highlight of the issue is the last story, “Ride the Blue Bus,” a rare example of a story both pencilled and inked by George Pérez. He is his own best inker because his inks bring out the meticulous detail of his pencils.

KIRBY GENESIS #5 (Dynamite, 2012) – “From Out of the Depths,” [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Jack Herbert & Alex Ross. This comic is based on a number of unpublished concepts created by Jack Kirby. However, Kurt’s story incorporates all these concepts at once, with the result that they all draw attention away from each other. Even worse, this comic’s plot is so convoluted and involves so many different characters that it makes no sense at all.

THE FLASH #314 (DC, 1982) – “Look Upon the Eradicator!”, [W] Cary Bates, [A] Carmine Infantino. I may have said this before, but The Flash was the perfect comic for Cary Bates because it was all plot. It didn’t require him to waste time on characterization, which he was very bad at. Because of his exclusive focus on plot at the expense of character, he was a natural heir to Fox and Broome. This issue balances several plots at once: the love triangle between Barry, Fiona Webb and Senator Creed; a new vigilante called the Eradicator; and the Rogues Gallery’s revenge scheme. It’s not the best Flash comic, but at least it’s entertaining.

WEIRD WAR TALES #65 (DC, 1978) – “The Last Cavalry Charge!”, [W] Paul Kupperberg, [A] Danny Bulanadi. In this issue’s main story, set in Greece in 1943, the witch Circe turns an old cavalry officer into a centaur so he can participate in one final cavalry charge. According to Wikipedia the actual “last cavalry charge” in history was at the Battle of Schoenfeld in 1945. The backup story, “Death’s Head” by Jack Oleck and Fred Carrillo, also stars Circe; in this story, she turns some Nazi soldiers into pigs. Neither of these stories is particularly good.

UNKNOWN SOLDIER #263 (DC, 1982) – “Death Sub, U.S.N.,” [W] Bob Haney, [A] Dick Ayers. In the first story, the Unknown Soldier solves the mystery of a submarine that was captured and then abandoned by the Japanese. It turns out that the Japanese put beer aboard the submarine that was contaminated with the plague, so that when the Americans took the sub back to Pearl Harbor, they would infect the rest of the country. I’m not sure the plague works that way. The second story, “Killers in the Sky” starring Balloon Buster and Enemy Ace, is the best story in the issue because it’s drawn by Dan Spiegle; however, Balloon Buster’s dialogue is extremely annoying. Finally, there’s a Tomahawk story by Haney and Delbo, which is hampered by boring art and dubious historical accuracy.

LEGION LOST #6 (DC, 2000) – “Burnout,” [W] Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning, [A] Pascal Alixe. Umbra goes crazy due to being unable to contact her ancestors, and Saturn Girl tries to help her and also goes crazy. Later, the Legion explores a new planet. This series made the Legion more popular than they had been in years, but it was extremely dark and grim. In a way it was even grimmer than the v4 Legion, which at least had frequent moments of hope and humor.

THE SHADOW #12 (DC, 1975) – “Night of the Damned,” [W] Denny O’Neil, [A] E.R. Cruz. I may be the only one who likes E.R. Cruz’s art. No one ever mentions him much, but his style of linework is very distinctive, with tons of fine detail. This issue has a pretty dumb story about a Russian mystic named Ivan Zarnovitch. One of Zarnovitch’s henchmen is a giant weightlifter named Sergei Diaghilev. I assume that for some reason Denny named this character after the famous ballet impresario who founded the Ballets Russes.

KULL THE DESTROYER #11 (Marvel, 1973) – “King Kull Must Die!”, [W] Roy Thomas, [A] Mike Ploog. This issue adapts REH’s “By This Axe I Rule!”, which was later converted into the first Conan story, “The Phoenix on the Sword.” “King Kull Must Die” felt very familiar to me, and I think I may have read it somewhere before. It’s good, though. It sums up what seems to be the main theme of the character: Kull finds the throne of Valusia to be an unwelcome burden, but he’ll be damned if he lets anyone else take it from him. And Mike Ploog’s art is very powerful. I especially like the climactic quasi-splash page where Kull shouts “Now – who dies first?”

ACTION COMICS #430 (DC, 1973) – “Bus-Ride to Nowhere!”, [W] Cary Bates, [A] Curt Swan. In Clark has to figure out which of his neighbors is an alien monster from the 420th century. This story is well-drawn, but implausible and stupid. In the backup story, by Elliot S! Maggin and Dick Dillin, the Atom takes Jean Loring’s nephew to the circus and gets involved in an adventure. This story is not memorable, but at least it’s cute.

RED SONJA #13 (Marvel, 1979) – “Shall Skranos Fall?”, [W] Roy Thomas w/ Clair Noto, [A] John Buscema. Clair Noto, more often credited in comics as Clara Noto, is best known for writing the unpublished screenplay The Tourist. Red Sonja was the only comic she ever wrote. According to Back Issue #118, this was because she became acquainted with Roy at a time when he was feeling burnt out and needed a partner. Maybe her presence explains why Red Sonja feels rather different in tone from Roy’s Conan comics. “Shall Skranos Fall?” wraps up most of the series’ dangling plots in a satisfying way, but it’s too bad that Frank Thorne didn’t draw it.

I received a new comics shipment on March 6. This was the last normal week before the pandemic. For new comics released in March, each review should be understood to include the unstated comment “I hope I get to read the next issue soon.”

THE MAGNIFICENT MS. MARVEL #13 (Marvel, 2020) – “Introducing: Amulet!”, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Joey Vazquez. Kamala and her friends go to the fair, Kamala and Bruno have some relationship problems, and then we’re introduced to Marvel’s first Arab-American superhero, Amulet. This character, created by Saladin and Sara Alfageeh, has been heavily hyped, and so far I love him. Saladin doesn’t reveal his origin or secret identity this issue, which is a reasonable choice, but unfortunately it means it’ll be a while before we learn any more about him.

STRANGE ADVENTURES #1 (DC, 2020) – “They Floated Above the Ground,” [W] Tom King, [A] Mitch Gerads & Evan “Doc” Shaner. I love the idea of Adam and Alanna Strange, but their original stories are very sexist (see Mystery in Space #75 review below). And the only major modern take on them is Swamp Thing #57 and #58, where Adam is presented very negatively, and Alanna doesn’t get to do anything. So Tom King has a great opportunity to redefine these characters. This issue, Adam and Alanna are stuck on Earth and are dealing with the tragic loss of their daughter. The Earth scenes are drawn by Mitch Gerads, and the Rann flashbacks by Doc Shaner. This is an extremely promising series, though it has some obvious similarities to Tom and Mitch’s Mr. Miracle – both are 12 issues and have a theme of parenthood. I hope we will soon see where this series is going.

STRANGE ACADEMY #1 (Marvel, 2020) – untitled, [W] Skottie Young, [A] Humberto Ramos. This series is essentially NewMutants, except with magical characters instead of mutants. The POV character is a human girl, but the other characters include fairies, Asgardians, giants, Dormammu’s son, etc. Among the instructors are Voodoo, Loki, and Zelma from Aaron and Bachalo’s Dr. Strange. Strange Academy is utterly adorable, and like that Dr. Strange series, it fully embraces the humor and weirdness of the magical side of the Marvel Universe. I really want to read more of it.

OUTER DARKNESS/CHEW #1 (Image, 2020) – “Universes Collide Part One,” [W] John Layman, [A] Afu Chan & Rob Guillory. The Charon crew encounters an alien who can only communicate through food, so they summon Tony Chu and Colby from the past in order to assist them. However, while in the future, Tony and Colby learn about their awful fates at the end of the Chew series, so they resolve to escape their impending doom. This comic’s plot is a somewhat contrived way to bring together John Layman’s two primary series, but it’s a fun comic anyway. The future sequences are drawn by Afu Chan, and the flashback to the 21st century is drawn by Rob Guillory.

BILLIONAIRE ISLAND #1 (Ahoy, 2020) – untitled, [W] Mark Russell, [A] Steve Pugh. Some billionaires create an island where they can get away from the problems of the real world, most of which are their own fault. On this island, they have a prison for all the normal people who have offended them, including a crusading investigative journalist. This series is sadly even more relevant now than when it was published, since billionaires are currently making windfall profits, while poor people have to choose whether to die of coronavirus or to starve. So far this series is not nearly as fun as Second Coming, but it’s important.

FARMHAND #14 (Image, 2020) – “The Voice,” [W/A] Rob Guillory. This issue continues a bunch of ongoing plotlines, and is bookended by flashbacks depicting Monica Thorne’s past. As I mentioned previously, my students loved the first volume of Farmhand, and it was a great way to start off my comics class.

THE DREAMING #19 (DC, 2020) – “One Magical Movement, Part One,” [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Bilquis Evely. Lucien explains the origin of Wan/The Moth, and then in an epic “cavalry arrives” moment, the rest of the Dreaming natives come back and sacrifice themselves to beat Wan. I believe that next issue is Si Spurrier’s last, and then G. Willow Wilson will take over… eventually.

MILES MORALES: SPIDER-MAN #16 (Marvel, 2020) – “Day/Night,” [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Cory Smith. In the first story, Miles takes his new baby sister to the park, but somehow winds up fighting an alligator. This story is a lot of fun, and I appreciate that Billie is still a newborn and has not been subjected to Soap Opera Rapid Aging Syndrome. The backup story, starring Uncle Aaron, is less interesting.

BIRTHRIGHT #42 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Andrei Bressan. The world’s defenses are collapsing as Lore invades. Mikey fails to get anything useful out of Lore’s witches, and then Lore sends a werewolf to kill them anyway. Rook invades Mikey’s military base, gets shot by troops who don’t know who he is, and dies in Mikey’s arms. A sad issue.

CONAN: BATTLE FOR THE SERPENT CROWN #2 (Marvel, 2020) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Luke Ross. Conan fights Black Widow and Scarlet Spider, then Conan and Nyla get teleported to Wakanda. Saladin writes Conan very well, and I think he could do a great job on Conan’s ongoing series. I have far more confidence in him than in Jim Zub. The highlight of this issue is when the guard asks Conan if his loincloth is real fur and if he has it drycleaned.

MARVEL #1 (Marvel, 2020) – “The Boy… and the Brute,”  [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Steve Rude. I believe these creators’ only other collaboration was Thor: Godstorm. Unfortunately this issue’s credits box is lettered confusingly, so it looks at first like Kurt drew the story and the Dude wrote it. “The Boy… and the Brute” takes place shortly after Avengers #4 and focuses on Rick Jones’s relationship to the Hulk. It’s not the most ambitious story, and it has little in common with Marvels, which this series is based on; however, it’s very well done. There are two other stories in this issue, but I don’t remember anything about them.

RAGNAROK: THE BREAKING OF HELHEIM #4 (IDW, 2020) – “The Wolves of Helheim…”, [W/A] Walt Simonson. Thor has a funny conversation with Ratatoskr and then enters Helheim. There he meets some wolves who used to be Einherjar, and they blame him for their current sorry state. I read Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology recently, and I think it was much less original or interesting than Ragnarok – although Neil has made better use of Norse myths in Sandman and American Gods.

THE CIMMERIAN: QUEEN OF THE BLACK COAST #1 (Ablaze, 2020) – untitled, [W] Jean-David Morvan, [A] Pierre Alary. This French comic is an adaptation of REH’s Conan story of the same title. That story is in public domain, but the name and character of Conan are still trademarked. That’s why this comic is called The Cimmerian instead of Conan – as with the old Uncensored Mouse comic books. The Cimmerian #1 was supposed to come out last year, but Diamond refused to carry it due to pressure from Marvel and Conan Properties. Later Ablaze reached an agreement with Conan Properties, the terms of which are not public, and The Cimmerian #1 finally did come out. Now as for the actual comic: Alary’s artwork is spectacular, as one expects from a French comic, and his and Morvan’s Conan is far sexier than any American Conan comic. However, besides that, this comic doesn’t add much that wasn’t in other adaptations of “Queen of the Black Coast.” I have the second issue, but have not read it yet.

DRYAD #1 (Oni, 2020) – untitled, [W] Kurtis Wiebe, [A] Justin Osterling. I’ve lost all confidence in Kurtis Wiebe, for several reasons: Rat Queens jumped the shark, Pisces was never finished, and he seems to still be friends with Roc Upchurch. This new comic does nothing to redeem Wiebe in my eyes. It’s an epic fantasy about two young twins and their parents, but its premise is not clear, and it just feels incoherent. I don’t plan on continuing with this series.

IRON MAN 2020 #3 (Marvel, 2020) – untitled, [W] Dan Slott & Christos Gage, [A] Pete Woods. This comic has an exciting plot with a ton of surprising twists; it’s never quite clear who’s winning. As I was midway through this issue, I remembered that it was Slott who gave Awesome Android a personality, back in She-Hulk. That was a while ago. I ordered a couple issues from Slott’s previous Iron Man series, but I haven’t read them yet.

KING OF NOWHERE #1 (Boom!, 2020) – untitled, [W] W. Maxwell Prince, [A] Tyler Jenkins. This new series is about a somnambulist who wakes up to find himself in a weird town full of bizarre creatures. I don’t get what’s going on in this comic, but at least it has an ongoing plot, unlike Ice Cream Man. Tyler Jnekins’s art here is very similar to his art in Black Badge and Grass Kings, except he also gets to draw fish-men and women with horns.

WELLINGTON #3 (IDW, 2020) – untitled, [W] Delilah Dawson & Aaron Mahnke, [A] Piotr Kowalski. This series is very similar to Hellboy, except not as original, and it also doesn’t feel historically accurate. I don’t believe the Duke of Wellington would have worn clothes that look identical to modern men’s clothing. This series doesn’t interest me at all, and I’m giving up on it.

THE GOON #9 (Albatross, 2020) – “Witches’ Brew,” [W] Roger Langridge, [A] Mike Norton. I stopped reading The Goon because it was repetitive (this was an incorrect decision; see other reviews below), but I bought this issue because Roger Langridge was the guest writer. In this issue, a group of witches enters into competition with the existing brewery in the Goon’s town, where beer is essential because the dock-worker goblins need to be constantly drunk. This is a funny comic and I plan on continuing with this series.

MYSTERY IN SPACE #75 facsimile (DC, 1962/2020) – “The Planet That Came to a Standstill,” [W] Gardner Fox, [A] Carmine Infantino. Adam Strange and Alanna team up with the Justice League to battle Kanjar Ro. This is an exciting, epic-length story, and it probably deserved the Alley Award it won in 1962. However, Fox’s characterization, as usual, is very poor by modern standards. And he keeps calling Alanna a “girl,” although at least Alanna gets to ply an active role in the story, unlike most of Fox’s superhero girlfriends. Also, at the end of this story, Adam saves the day by using metal from Kanjar Ro’s home planet against him, on the theory that such metal would affect Kanjar Ro the same way kryponite affects Superman. That’s pretty stupid logic, even if it worked. (Edit: It turns out I already had this issue, but my copy is in awful condition, so I will keep the facsimile edition as a reading copy.)

REVIVAL #3 (Image, 2012) – untitled, [W] Tim Seeley, [A] Mike Norton. The highlight of this very early issue is the multiple scenes with the old Hmong lady, Mrs. Vang. This may be the only comic ever published that passes the Bechdel test with two Hmong women. There’s also a scene in this issue that implies that Martha has been having an affair with her drama professor. I forget if this was ever mentioned again.

ARCHIE’S PALS AND GALS #218 (Archie, 1990) – “The Cookie Caper,” [W] Mike Pellowski, [A] Howard Bender. A bunch of boring gag stories.

8HOUSE #5 (Image, 2015) – “Yorris Part 2,” [W/A] Fil Barlow, [W] Helen Maier. Two incoherent and nonsensical SF stories, one of which is a reprint from 1993. Brandon Graham really seems to have liked Fil Barlow’s work, but I suspect that this was because Graham was quite young when he read Zooniverse. In general, 8House was far less successful than other Graham projects like Prophet or Island. Its ambitions were probably set too high.

LOIS LANE #9 (DC, 2020) – “Enemy of the People Part Nine,” [W] Greg Rucka, [A] Mike Perkins. I’m getting tired of this series. At one point in this issue, Renee tells Batman that it doesn’t matter that Superman’s help might be unreliable, because she and Lois are going to handle things themselves. That points to a major problem with this comic: no matter what trouble Lois and Renee get into, Superman can always bail them out, and the only reason they’re not relying on him is because they don’t want to. It’s like they’re just playing at being heroes. Surely Rucka could have come up with a way to make Lois less dependent on Superman. Another weird moment in this issue is when Renee says that Superman, Wonder Woman and Martian Manhunter get a pass for being undocumented because they’re heroes, and Lois replies “That’s not why they get a pass.” Implicitly, the reason is because they’re white. But as one of my Facebook friends pointed out, J’onn does not always benefit from white privilege; his current secret identity is a black man, although I did not know that. Also, as another friend observed, it’s strange that Lois is making this point and not Renee.

MONEY SHOT #5 (Vault, 2020) – untitled, [W] Tim Seeley & Sarah Beattie, [A] Rebekah Isaacs. This issue wraps up the first storyline, and is much sexier than last issue. It also leaves room for a possible sequel. I will have to add Money Shot #1 and #2 to my next online comics order.

SILK #4 (Marvel, 2016) – untitled, [W] Robbie Thompson, [A] Veronica Fish. Silk fights the Goblin Nation and tries to track down her brother. This issue is an excessively quick read, like all issues of Silk. At least it has better art than is usual for this series.

THE GOON: ONCE UPON A HARD TIME #2 (Dark Horse, 2015) – “Once Upon a Hard Time Part 2: A Man Turned Animal,” [W/A] Eric Powell. An adaptation of The Island of Dr. Moreau, with a very brief framing sequence showing the Goon reading the novel. I’ve never actually read The Island of Dr. Moreau, but I’ve seen one film adaptation and read two comics adaptations of it. Eric Powell’s version is far better than Gabriel Rodriguez’s, except in the area of draftsmanship. Instead of trying to draw slick, realistic animal people, he brings out the horror of Wells’s story.

CLAW THE UNCONQUERED #3 (DC, 1975) – “The Bloodspear,” [W] David Michelinie, [A] Ernie Chua. Claw meets an attractive female centaur and goes on a quest to turn her back into a human. She tries to betray him and gets killed, and Claw discovers that she was never a human to begin with. Claw the Unconquered is not nearly as good as Roy Thomas’s Conan, but it’s not terrible.

SON OF MUTANT WORLD #3 (Fantagor, 1990) – untitled, [W] Jan Strnad, [A] Richard Corben. The protagonist, Dementia, meets a guy named Herschel, and then her pet bear is captured by redneck hunters. This story is a pretty good example of Corben’s raucous, intentionally vulgar style, but it’s also very short. The backup story, “Dead Run” by BrucE Jones and Corben, appears to be original to this issue. It’s about a woman who, as we learn, killed her husband because they were both dying of thirst, only to be rescued shortly afterward. It’s a lot like Jones and Corben’s Warren stories. Finally, there’s a reprinted Corben story from 1970, “Twilight of the Gods.”

HOUSE OF YANG #1 (Modern/Charlton, 1978/1975) – “Empress of Evil,” [W] Joe Gill, [A] Sanho Kim. This is a formulaic martial arts story, but it benefits from being drawn by an artist who was actually from East Asia. Sanho Kim’s depictions of Chinese clothing, architecture, and fighting styles feel realistic. He gets a bad rap sometimes, but that’s largely because his art style had nothing in common with anything else in ‘70s American comics; he was a manhwa artist working for an audience that had never heard of manhwa. His Korean work from the ‘50s and ‘60s was very important, but it seems unlikely that this material will be translated into English anytime soon.

GODZILLA: THE HALF-CENTURY WAR #2 (IDW, 2012) – “Vietnam 1967,” [W/A] James Stokoe. I bought this several years ago, but never read it because Stokoe’s comics are so time-consuming to read. He draws every leaf on every tree and every scale on Godzilla’s back. This results in comics which are spectacular to look at, but somewhat hard to read. I also notice that his facial expressions are far less detailed than his backgrounds – that’s the masking effect – and his action sequences would be very fast-paced and thrilling, if the art wasn’t so detailed. In summary, his comics are like manga, but with much more detailed art. The storytelling demands to be read quickly, but the artwork demands to be pondered carefully. It’s a weird effect. This particular issue takes place in Vietnam, obviously, and the plot involves the army’s attempts to divert Godzilla back to the ocean before he causes a disaster.

COLD HEAT #1 (PictureBox, 2006) – “Chocolate Gun,” [W/A] BJ (Ben Jones) and Frank Santoro. This is an extremely well-designed comic, with slick covers and ultra-vivid coloring. But its plot doesn’t make much sense. I can’t really explain what this comic is about, except that it focuses on a teenage girl, and it’s hard to compare it to anything else. I should read Santoro’s recent graphic novel Pittsburgh. Cold Heat must be a very rare comic; I’m guessing it was only sold at shows and through the mail. There seem to have been six issues in total.

WILD’S END #3 (Boom!, 2014) – “The Dark Woods,” [W] Dan Abnett, [A] I.N.J. Culbard. I finally read The War of the Worlds just before classes were cancelled for the semester. It’s a great novel, but I chose an unfortunate time to read it, because it’s way too relevant to the present situation. Early in the novel, Wells emphasizes how at the beginning of the Martian invasion, people were living their normal lives, with no idea that their society was about to collapse. That seems to perfectly describe my own situation at the beginning of March. Anyway, this issue is mostly devoted to characterization. The surviving characters spend an uncomfortable night in the open, then head back to town to warn the authorities, and then they run into some trigger-happy dude – I wonder if this is Fawkes. (Answer: yes)

DECORUM #1 (Image, 2020) – “And the Womanly Art of Assassination,” [W] Jonathan Hickman, [A] Mike Huddleston. Decorum was advertised as being about an extremely polite assassin, but that character only shows up near the end of the issue, and the series also has lots of other stuff going on. Much of the issue is devoted to worldbuilding, and it’s not yet clear what the core premise of the series is. However, Mike Huddleston’s draftsmanship and coloring are stunning, and are enough to justify the price of the comic all on their own. This issue has the weird design and lettering that are characteristic of all Hickman’s comics. I assume he’s responsible for these things himself.

CAPTAIN GINGER SEASON TWO #2 (Ahoy, 2020) – “Dogworld Chapter Two,” [W] Stuart Moore, [A] June Brigman. The cats have to abandon their ship and crash-land on Dogworld. This issue is mostly action sequences, but it’s extremely fun, as usual.

THE DOLLHOUSE FAMILY #5 (DC, 2020) – “Only One,” [W] Mike Carey, [A] Peter Gross. This issue is credited to M.R. Carey. I wonder why he uses that pseudonym. Alice goes to Cordwainer’s old house in Wicklow, gets arrested for trespassing, and then discovers that she legally owns the house. On a return visit, she sees a vision of the “mallacht de ort” scene from a previous issue, but this time it ends with the house being created from a newborn’s placenta. I hope we can read the end of this story soon.

THE MAN WHO F#&%ED UP TIME #2 (AfterShock, 2020) – “Just in Time,” [W] Sean Layman, [A] Karl Mostert. Sean tries to fix things, but keeps making them worse. So far the most fun thing about this series is seeing the effects of all Sean’s changes. By the end of the issue, Sean finds himself in a town full of medieval timber-framed architecture, where everyone dresses in animal skins, and there are biplanes and a zeppelin in the sky. This whole series is basically an extended version of the Simpsons segment “Time and Punishment” from Treehouse of Horror V, which was itself based on Ray Bradbury’s “A Sound of Thunder.” (BTW, I recently had a dream where my second book manuscript was rejected even though Ray Bradbury said he liked it.)

X-MEN #8 (Marvel, 2020) – “Something’s Coming,” [W] Jonathan Hickman, [A] Mahmud Asrar. Rahne has brought a Brood King egg back from space, and the Brood show up on Earth to claim it. This issue includes guest appearances by Gladiator and the Starjammers, as well as my favorite character from Wolverine and the X-Men, Broo.

MANIFEST DESTINY #42 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Chris Dingess, [A] Matthew Roberts. This issue has the cutest cover of the entire series, showing baby Pompey playing with a bear cub. It may be inspired by the cover of Swamp Thing #95, where baby Tefe is playing with a baby Swamp Thing. The scene on the cover does occur in the comic, but the bear cub is actually the Spanish ghost dude, and he engineers the destruction of the boat. Also, two of the Corps of Discovery initiate a same-sex romance. This was an exciting issue.

IMMORTAL HULK #32 (Marvel, 2020) – “Hulk is Hulk,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Joe Bennett & Javier Rodriguez. I think Rodriguez only drew the three pages with the stacks of TVs, and Bennett drew the rest of the issue. This issue begins with a terrifying scene where Xemnu, Marvel’s hungwiest villain, devours Dario Agger’s most faithful lieutenant. Xemnu’s adorable appearance makes him all the more uncanny. Meanwhile, the Hulk’s friends finally realize that Xemnu is screwing with their minds, and the Hulk from Planet Hulk makes an appearance. One of the impressive aspects of this series is how Ewing has succeeded in tying together every period of the Hulk’s history. This is a difficult feat because the defining aspect of Hulk comics is that their core premises are always changing.

GREEN LANTERN SEASON TWO #2 (DC, 2020) – “The Cosmidor Conspiracy,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Liam Sharp. Back on Earth, Hal romances Eve Doremus, a character whose only previous appearances were in five Silver Age issues. Also, the planet gets taken over by some bird-headed creatures. This issue didn’t make much sense to me, and I don’t remember much about it.

B.B. FREE #3 (Boom!, 2020) – “Spit, Butterflies, and Wildflowers,” [W] Gabby Rivera, [A] Royal Dunlap. This may be the last issue, because Boom! cancelled the solicitations for issues 4 through 6. The Boom! Box imprint seems to be moving toward a trade-paperback-only model. That sucks for me because I prefer periodical comic books, but it’s probably a sound decision. In any event, even if the current crisis has endangered the existence of monthly comics, it’s also revealed that monthly comics do still have a devoted readership, and that I’m not the only one who wants this format to survive. Anyway, this issue, b.b. and her friend stop some mean kids from draining a swamp. This series is a tremendous improvement over Gabby Rivera’s America, and it suggests that the problems with that series were due to inexperience rather than a lack of writing ability.

RONIN ISLAND #11 (Boom!, 2020) – untitled, [W] Greg Pak, [A] Giannis Milonogiannis. Kenichi and Hana defeat the escaping soldiers in a sea battle, and then Hana convinces not to execute the other captive shogunate soldiers. The impressive part of this issue is Hana’s speech about how she hates the island, because it will never accept her, even though it’s the only home she has, and even though she’s had to do awful things on its behalf. The political relevance of this is obvious. Americans of color are expected to love and to fight for America, even though America won’t return the favor.

SNOTGIRL #15 (Image, 2020) – “My Next Mistake,” [W] Bryan Lee O’Malley, [A] Leslie Hung. Snotgirl attends Normgirl’s wedding, which is being held in a forest. Snotgirl tries to confront Caroline about their relationship, but accidentally knocks her off a cliff, then falls off the cliff herself. Meanwhile, the entire forest is on fire, and the wedding guests are sick from eating poisonous berries. This issue must have been inspired by last year’s California wildfires, although that crisis now seems like nothing compared to coronavirus.

GHOSTED IN L.A. #9 (Boom!, 2020) – untitled, [W] Sina Grace, [A] Siobhan Keenan. I don’t remember this issue very well. Someone vandalizes the mansion, and Agi realizes that it happened because when she performed the ritual on Shirley, she released the wrong soul. Given my above comments on Boom! Box’s marketing strategy, I’m surprised that the single issues of Ghosted in LA are still being solicited.

NEW MUTANTS #9 (Marvel, 2020) – “Something Rotten in…”, [W] Ed Brisson, [A] Flaviano. The New Mutants go on a mission to the fictional European country of Carnelia. I bought this issue by accident (thinking it was written by Hickman), and I wish I hadn’t.

MARVELS SNAPSHOTS: SUB-MARINER #1 (Marvel, 2020) – “Reunion,” [W] Alan Brennert, [A] Jerry Ordway. New comics by Alan Brennert are always welcome. His entire comics corpus is small enough to fit into one volume, but almost every story he’s written is a classic. In this one-shot, Betty Dean and Namor try to resume their relationship after Namor returns from World War II. But Namor is suffering from PTSD, as is Betty’s brother, and Namor’s PTSD is triggered when he has to fight a Nazi shark villain. Like Marvel #1, this issue has little in common with the original Marvels series, but it’s a powerful, heartfelt depiction of the veteran experience. It also feels very historically accurate, largely due to Ordway’s highly detailed and immersive art.

ADLER #2 (Titan, 2020) – untitled, [W] Lavie Tidhar, [A] Paul McCaffrey. Irene Adler visits the opera, investigates the murder of Professor Moriarty, and meets the main characters from The Prisoner of Zenda. This series’ plot is complicated and I’m not sure where it’s going, but overall, Adler is a very effective piece of steampunk and fanfiction. Paul McCaffrey’s faces look a bit weird somehow, but I like his art.

THE TERRIFICS #26 (DC, 2020) – “The Day Simon Stagg Died, Part One,” [W] Gene Luen Yang, [A] Sergio Davila. Simon Stagg has a terminal disease. Yay! Without telling anyone, he sends the Terrifics to test a new rapid transit system, but somehow it’s actually a cover for Stagg’s attempt to extend his life by sacrificing Plastic Man’s son to some demons. Or something like that. Yang’s plots are rather complicated. At the end of the issue, Tom and Tesla Strong show up along with some other heroes. I’d forgotten that the Strongs were in this series.

BLACKWOOD: THE MOURNING AFTER #2 (Dark Horse, 2020) – untitled, [W] Evan Dorkin, [A] Veronica Fish & Andy Fish. By this point it was getting hard to concentrate on reading comics, because I didn’t know if there would ever be any more new comics again, after the last couple weeks. I still don’t know that, but I feel more hopeful than I did in March. I believe Diamond will be able to start shipping again in May. This issue, the kids investigate a bunch of weird mysteries around campus. Clearly the highlight of this issue is the library scene. The librarian says that the kids won’t see the cats “until they want you to. They’re cats, after all,” and two panels later, the librarian is suddenly surrounded by five cats.

HOUSE OF WHISPERS #19 (DC, 2020) – “So Our Souls May Fly,” [W] Nalo Hopkinson & Dan Watters, [A] Domo Stanton. This series is ending with #22. That’s too bad, but the last few issues have been excessively slow-paced and haven’t really gone anywhere. I still love Hopkinson’s writing and I hope she writes more comics. This issue continues a bunch of different plotlines, and also brings back Anansi. As I just mentioned, I’m not sure where this storyline is going.

CATWOMAN #21 (DC, 2020) – “Living with Both Faces,” [W] Joëlle Jones, [A] Fernando Blanco. Catwoman fights a bunch of zombies at Raina Creel’s mansion, then confronts Raina herself. In a rather sad flashback to Selina’s origin, we learn that what she really wants is to be loved. Selina sends her boyfriend a goodbye letter, then leaves town with her sister, who’s begun to speak. It seems that this was Joëlle Jones’s last issue. With Jones as the writer, Catwoman was as good as it’s been since Darwyn Cooke and Cameron Stewart’s time.

ATOMIC ROBO: DOGS OF WAR #3 (Red 5, 2008) – “Going Off Track,” [W] Brian Clevinger, [A] Scott Wegener. In Croatia in 1943, Robo and Sparrow fight some Nazi monsters on top of a train. Robo and Sparrow’s interactions are very funny. Pages 2 through 9 of this issue have an interesting gimmick. Each page has three panels arranged vertically, and on each page, the top panel shows the Nazi leader Skorzeny, the middle panel shows Robo himself, and the bottom panel shows the Sparrow. So these pages can be read either horizontally or vertically. The gimmick ends when the three characters all end up in the same place.

BLOODSHOT REBORN #4 (Valiant, 2015) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Mico Suayan. This issue introduces Magic, who will become Bloodshot’s love interest and the mother of his daughter. Also in this issue are Bloodsquirt, a tiny cartoon version of Bloodshot, and another character who looks like Bloodshot but is a homicidal zealot. I’m not sure how this issue fits with the later issues I’ve read.

BATMAN #324 (DC, 1980) – “The Cat Who Would Be King!”, [W] Len Wein, [A] Irv Novick. Catwoman is dying of a rare disease that can only be cured by certain herbs, but she and Batman have to fight Cat-Man to get the herbs. This is a pretty exciting issue. The first half of the #300s were a good period for this title. There’s a panel in this issue where Catwoman wakes up naked with Batman sitting next to her (, but sadly this doesn’t seem to be what it looks like.

FIRE FROM HEAVEN #2 (Image, 1996) – “Moonlight and Ashes,” [W] Alan Moore, [A] Jim Lee. This isn’t what you would expect from two such legendary creators. It’s the conclusion to a crossover between a bunch of Wildstorm titles. It has a confusing plot and too many characters, and it doesn’t feel particularly Moorean.

INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #501 (Marvel, 2011) – “Fix Me Part 1,” [W] Matt Fraction, [A] Salvador Larroca. A dying Dr. Octopus threatens to blow up Manhattan and also kill a friend of Tony’s, unless Tony cures Doc Ock’s terminal disease. In a series of flashbacks, Tony encounters Doc Ock at an academic conference, and they make enemies of each other. Iron Man and Dr. Octopus rarely encounter each other because Doc Ock is another superhero’s villain, but it makes logical sense that they would have met in their civilian lives, and Matt Fraction succeeds in drawing a connection between them. I really like Larroca’s art, and I think he’s very underappreciated. He draws the flashback sequences in a much less slick and more European style than his usual style. His style in these scenes reminds me a bit of Vittorio Giardino’s.

My next DCBS shipment arrived on March 19:

LUMBERJANES #72 (Boom!, 2020) – “Forestry is the Best Policy Part 4,” [W] Shannon Watters & Kat Leyh, [A] Kanesha C. Bryant & Julia Madrigal. We get the end of the first Lumberjane’s story. The Lumberjanes help Rosie and Abigail kill the invasive vine thing, which seems a bit odd because it’s a living creature. There are further suggestions that Rosie and Abigail are a couple. This was a fun storyline, though I was hoping to learn even more about the camp’s history.

FANTASTIC FOUR #20 (Marvel, 2020) – “Welcoming Party,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Paco Medina. The FF return home, and Johnny and Sky go to help Wyatt Wingfoot with a crisis on the Keewazi reservation. The Mole Man has laid claim to the Keewazi’s land and is trying to drive them off of it with tyrannosauruses. But since dinosaurs are just large birds, Sky talks to them and convinces them to switch sides, and the day is saved. The issue ends  with Reed reconciling with Ben. This is a well-written and heartwarming done-in-one story. Wyatt Wingfoot is a potentially problematic character, though Slott depicts him in a fairly respectful way. I do wonder about the appropriateness of using a fake name for a Native American tribe. Maybe the Keewazi should just be the Kiowa, since they live in Oklahoma. In She-Hulk #16, to be reviewed much later, Slott did use a real name for a First Nation.

RUNAWAYS #31 (Marvel, 2020) – “Cannon Fodder Pt. VII,” [W] Rainbow Rowell, [A] Andres Genolet. Doc Justice almost kills the Runaways, but Victor shows up at the last minute to stop him, and Old Lace kills Doc and feeds him to Gib. So it’s a relative happy ending. Alec makes a cameo appearance on the last page.

WICKED THINGS #1 (Boom!, 2020) – untitled, [W] John Allison, [A] Max Sarin. This new series by the Giant Days team stars Lottie Love, a teenage private detective. She gets nominated for the Detective of the Year Awards, where she meets a bunch of other detectives who all represent various national stereotypes. But although she wins the award, she also gets framed for murdering a Japanese detective. This series is a witty and self-aware parody of the cozy mystery genre, and it has Allison’s characteristic style of humor.

ALIENATED #2 (Boom!, 2020) – “We Need to Talk,” [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Chris Wildgoose. We meet Chelsea, who is the most popular girl in the three protagonists’ school, but is obsessed with being even more popular. The three Sams test their new powers by having the alien devour her mind. Chelsea is a less loathsome character than Leon from last issue; she’s self-absorbed and disingenuous, but not truly harmful. Thus, the reader feels uncomfortable with what the three Sams do to her. At the end of the issue, we learn that Samuel’s mother is a cop, and she needs to talk to her son.

TARTARUS #2 (Image, 2020) – “Homegoing,” [W] Johnnie Christmas, [A] Jack T. Cole. This issue’s title probably comes from the brilliant novel by Yaa Gyasi, or else the folk belief that the novel is named after. This issue, Tilde smuggles herself from the station to Tartarus by boarding a vessel that’s participating in a bizarre funeral rite. This issue is action-packed and exciting, and Jack T. Cole’s art is stunning. Tartarus is an important new series.

SOMETHING IS KILLING THE CHILDREN #6 (Boom!, 2020) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Werther Dell’Edera. In the aftermath of last issue’s epic confrontation, James is in a coma, and there’s a cave full of dead teenagers. (In the context of coronavirus, the line “the morgue isn’t big enough for all of these kids” has an eerie resonance that Tynion obviously did not intend.) From the little girl who was held captive in the cave, Erica learns that the monster has reproduced. Meanwhile, the other members of Erica’s organization decide to kill Tommy. This series has been really good. I need to collect more of Tynion’s other creator-owned titles.

ASCENDER #10 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dustin Nguyen. Effie frees Andy from jail, but then Andy is tragically forced to kill her at her own request, because her vampirism is incurable. Meanwhile, Helda almost gets killed by a ghost, but is rescued by a magician and his companion, none other than Driller. I think we’ve seen the magician before, but I forget who he is.

USAGI YOJIMBO #9 (IDW, 2020) – “Tatami Part 2 of 2,” [W/A] Stan Sakai. Kagemaru suceeds in destroying the tatami shipment, meaning that the shipment’s guards will have to volunteer to commit seppuku to atone for their mistake. Quite a sad ending. Meanwhile, we learn that Kashira is working on Chizu’s behalf to undermine Kagemaru’s leadership of the Neko Ninja.

AQUAMAN #58 (DC, 2020) – “Echoes of a Life Lived Well,” [W] Kelly Sue DeConnick, [A] Miguel Mendonça. Arthur and Mera’s daughter is now an incredibly adorable ten-month-old, but her mother is still in a coma. For political reasons, Vulko announces that he’s going to go through with his proposed marriage to Mera. This issue’s plot would be very different if not for Dan DiDio’s asinine refusal to let Aquaman and Mera get married. I wasn’t even reading Aquaman back in 2013 when DiDio announced that they couldn’t get married, and that announcement still pissed me off. I never approved of Dan DiDio’s leadership, and I’m very glad he’s gone. Also in this issue, Orm and Dolphin arrange a coup against Atlantis, and on the last page, the baby is kidnapped.

MIDDLEWEST #16 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Skottie Young, [A] Jorge Corona. Abel and his friends execute their escape plan, but it turns out that Nick Raider already anticipated their escape and ensured that it wouldn’t work. What he didn’t expect was the arrival of the people from the carnival. Nick Raider is a truly loathsome villain, a smug, self-satisfied enslaver of children, and I hope Abel kills him.

BANG! #2 (Dark Horse, 2020) – “One Way Ticket,” [W] Matt Kindt, [A] Wilfredo Torres. Most of this issue is a fairly straightforward tale about a super-spy named John Shaw. There are no metatextual elements until the very end, when Shaw meets Thomas Cord and discovers that he (Shaw) is a character in a novel. This issue was less interesting than #1.

GHOST-SPIDER #8 (Marvel, 2020) – “All You Wanna Do,” [W] Seanan McGuire, [A] Ig Guara. Gwen continues to investigate the Storm siblings. Back on Earth-616, she learns about Kamala’s law and has a tantrum. The issue ends with Gwen saving some people from a fire. This is another low-key but entertaining issue; however, it suffers from being part of the Outlawed crossover. Speaking of which:

OUTLAWED #1 (Marvel, 2020) – “Wanted for Teenage Vigilantism,” [W] Eve Ewing, [A] Kim Jacinto. Ailana Kabua, a stand-in for Malala Yousafzai, is giving a speech at Coles Academic High School, and Roxxon decides it’s a good time to assassinate her. The Champions prevent the assassination attempt and save Ailana, but Kamala Khan is badly hurt, and in response, the government passes a law against teen superheroes. On one hand, I love Eve Ewing’s writing, and it’s nice that she gets to write characters like Viv Vision and Nadia van Dyne. On the other hand, the premise of this crossover is really stupid. It’s just a rehash of the original Civil War. And it sucks that Kamala’s character arc has to be derailed in order to accommodate this crossover. Outlawed has also sparked a major controversy because it was supposed to introduce two new characters named Snowflake and Safespace. I actually think those names are funny, but some people have plausible reasons for finding them offensive. The other problem with Outlawed, of course, is that just as it was getting started, it was overtaken by real-world events, and now when it does come out, it will feel even less relevant. In general, I love Eve Ewing’s writing, but her work has suffered from the need to fit into the Marvel Universe, and she hasn’t been able to stay on any title for very long. I wish she would start doing creator-owned comics.

DRAGONFLY & DRAGONFLYMAN #5 (Ahoy, 2020) – untitled, [W] Tom Peyer, [A] Peter Krause. On Earth-Omega, Chip leaves town, correctly realizing that Dragonfly is abusing him. He throws away the suitcase that Dragonfly prepared for him, and a young runaway girl finds it and opens it to find a Stinger costume. On Earth-Alpha, Dragonflyman throws a giant party for the other Stinger. This series was entertaining, but the novelty of its premise has worn off, and it’s unfortunate that the two storylines don’t interact in any way. I would rather have gotten a sequel to The Wrong Earth, instead of a prequel.

X-RAY ROBOT #1 (Dark Horse, 2020) – untitled, [W/A] Mike Allred. This new series is about a scientist who projects his brain into a dimension-hopping robot. The premise is fun so far, and the art is some of the best of Allred’s career. The two-page splash showing the moment of interdimensional travel is a particular highlight. I’m not sure whether or how this series is connected to the Madman universe.

CAPTAIN MARVEL #16 (Marvel, 2020) – “The Last Avenger Finale,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Lee Garbett. Carol borrows the other Avengers’ powers, including Mjolnir and Captain America’s shield, and finally defeats Vox Supreme. This storyline was annoying and contrived, and I’m glad it’s over. However, I am losing hope that Kelly will ever be able to develop an innovative take on this series, the way she did with Hawkeye.

SUPERMAN’S PAL JIMMY OLSEN #9 (DC, 2020) – “…His Only Begotten Son!” and other vignettes, [W] Matt Fraction, [A] Steve Lieber. I think the highlight of this issue is the appearance by Arm-Fall-Off Boy and his similarly powered family, although there’s no explanation of how they got from the 31st to the 21st century. Besides that, this series continues a bunch of ongoing subplots. I hope this series ends soon so that I can reread it all at one sitting. It’s hard to make sense of it one issue at a time.

ATLANTIS ATTACKS #3 (Marvel, 2020) – “Sword of the Sirenas,” [W] Greg Pak, [A] Ario Anindito & Robert Gill. The two Atlas teams almost go to war, but manage to resolve their differences. The highlight of this issue is the scene where the Atlanteans and Sirenas tell two contradictory versions of the story of their ancestral combat. Each version is illustrated in a different style that resembles ancient vase painting. I ordered and received issue 1 of this series, but have not read it yet.

FAMILY TREE #5 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Phil Hester. This is probably my least favorite of Lemire’s creator-owned titles c. This issue begins with a very effective scene showing how the two parents’s marriage collapsed, and how the two children bonded despite or because of that. But the main part of the issue is less satisfying. Megan turns into a tree, and for unexplained reasons, this causes an apocalypse. Five years later, Josh is one of the few remaining humans, and he has to save the world. I’m going to keep reading this series, but I hope it gets better.

UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY #5 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Scott Snyder & Charles Soule, [A] Giuseppe Camuncoli & Leonardo Marcello Grassi. The flashbacks in this issue focus on the old soldier, Pavel Bukowski (no relation to Fante). In the main story, Lottie and Uncle Sam make it to the train that leads to the next part of America. This is a very ambitious and weird series, and I look forward to seeing where it goes next.

THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD #28 facsimile (DC, 1960/2010) – “Starro the Conqueror!”, [W] Gardner Fox, [A] Mike Sekowsky. The first Justice League story also introduces Starro and Snapper Carr. Setting the template for Fox’s later JLA stories, it consists ofan introduction followed by three vignettes. Two of these are Flash and Green Lantern solo stories, while a third is a team-up between Wonder Woman and Martian Manhunter. Finally, in the conclusion, the entire team comes together to defeat Starro. Fox’s JLA stories tended to highlight just one or two characters at a time, rather than the entire team together, and this is partly why the JLA has less of a distinctive group identity than the  Avengers.

THE LOW, LOW WOODS #4 (DC, 2020) – “Einstein on the Beach,” [W] Carmen Maria Machado, [A] Dani. The girls are attacked by skinless zombies, and then they confront the witch who looks like a little girl, demanding answers. To be honest, I barely remember anything about this issue, although I was not in a great mental state when I read it.

ARCHIE #712 (Archie, 2020) – “Archie and Katy Keene Part 3,” [W] Mariko Tamaki & Kevin Panetta, [A] Laura Braga. Katy, Sis and the Archie gang go to Manhattan. Katy refuses an insincere offer of mentorship from a self-centered jerk. This storyline still has a very minimal plot and is mostly an excuse to show off Laura Braga’s fashion designs, but I think that’s on purpose.

PLUNGE #2 (DC, 2020) – untitled, [W] Joe Hill, [A] Stuart Immonen. The protagonists investigate the resurfaced ship and discover some horrible creatures and some mathematical inscriptions. This is a powerful piece of Lovecraftian horror, but this issue was not as impressive as #1.

VAGRANT QUEEN: A PLANET CALLED DOOM #3 (Vault, 2020) – untitled, [W] Magdalene Visaggio, [A] Jason Smith. Elida manages to escape from her kidnapper, and she meets up with her old partner Stelling. Meanwhile, Florence is looking for Elida. I don’t remember much about this issue.

BITTER ROOT #7 (Image, 2020) – “Rage & Redemption Part Two,” [W] David F. Walker & Chuck Brown, [A] Sanford Greene. This issue advances the main plot a bit, but is primarily devoted to the origin story of the series’ main villain, Dr. Walter Sylvester. The essays at the end are by Donna-Lynn Washington, who edited the John Jennings: Conversations book, and Stacey Robinson. I have met the latter but not the former.

VALKYRIE: JANE FOSTER #9 (Marvel, 2020) – “At the End of All Things Part 2,” [W] Jason Aaron & Torunn Grønbekk, [A] Ramon Rosanas. Jane fights Thor, who’s been corrupted by an ancient king named Øde and a power called the Rokkva. This issue is not very interesting, and I continue to suspect that Jason Aaron’s contribution to this series is only nominal. I’m going to give this series a couple more issues before dropping it.

HEIST #5 (Vault, 2020) – untitled, [W] Paul Tobin, [A] Arjuna Susini. Glane Breld executes a complicated plot to blackmail a judge into verifying the deeds to the planet. Meanwhile, Eddy’s long-lost sister tracks him down. This series is very funny, and the main thing that stops it from being truly excellent is the inappropriate art, which I have complained about before.

I only had the energy to read two older comics this week:

BARBIE #46 (Marvel, 1994) – “My Name is Amy” and “A Fishy Story,” [W] Barbara Slate, [A] José Delbo. Amy, a friend of Skipper’s, is convinced that she’s ugly, and Skipper helps her get over it. This story is actually a somewhat serious depiction of low self-esteem. The backup story is about water pollution and includes a poster that appears to have been drawn by Slate herself.

ACTION COMICS #355 (DC, 1967) – “The Mighty Annihilator!”, [W] Leo Dorfman, [A] Wayne Boring. In an Iron Curtain country, a political prisoner, Karl Keller, accidentally gains super powers and becomes a rival to Superman. Keller has been sent to a forced labor camp despite having a Nobel Prize in chemistry. This reminds me of Bill Mauldin’s Pulitzer-winning cartoon where Boris Pasternak is in a prison camp, and he’s telling a fellow prisoner “I won the Nobel Prize for literature. What was your crime?” I wonder if Dorfman had Pasternak in mind when writing this story. There’s also a Supergirl backup story in which Luthor almost kills himself by accident, but Supergirl saves him.